Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The judge and the belt

Here's the story:
An 8-year-old boy has red marks across his back made by a belt.
(The photo at right, taken by the police sometime after the beating, shows the marks on the boy's back.)
A teacher sees these marks and reports it to authorities.
The boy's father, a 28-year-old Lorain man, is charged.
Lorain County Common Pleas Court Judge James Burge clears the man of wrongdoing.
The prosecution, Burge told our reporter, failed to prove the necessary element of the crime — that the 8-year-old boy had suffered serious physical harm and that the punishment was excessive.
I guess "excessive" is the key word here.
Burge said the marks looked worse than they were.
“Cosmetically they were bad, but I didn’t see any deep tissue problems,” he said. “I didn’t see bruises. I saw red marks. I didn’t see any welts where the skin was raised.”
Yep, "excessive" is definitely the key word.
While Burge said he probably would not have done what this father did, he said he is in favor of corporal punishment.
“I think that we would have far fewer juveniles in the system if their parents and teachers could correct them,” he said.
Most of us in the newsroom were shocked that a dad would do such a thing to a child -- and a judge would think it's OK.
But comments to the story posted on our Website this morning show that readers agree with the dad and the judge.
"If parents didn’t have to worry about going to jail for wooping the kids butt then I believe many more would and there would be a little respect in these kids. Also PLEASE get it back in the schools," writes Steve D.
Well, my kids are out of school but if they weren't, I wouldn't want no wooping of them there.
What can I say to that?
What can I say to any of this?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Just what is good, clean fun?

I opened up the paper this morning and there -- across the top of a photo of comedian Bill Engvall -- was a headline that said: "Good, clean fun at the Fair."
I read the accompanying story. I like Bill Engvall. I mean I like Bill Engvall as part of the "Blue Collar Comedy Tour." (The one I like best is Ron White but that doesn't really matter to this story.)
Bill Engvall, the story began, lived up to his reputation as "a clean and family-friendly funnyman." There was some yada yada and then, toward the end of the story, the writer detailed the jokes Engvall had told Monday night at the Fair. They were about, among other things, constipation and diarrhea, getting a cramp during sex, flatulence and Viagara (including the downside of a man's 36-hour arousal).
None of this crude, bathroom, junior-high humor offends me particularly but I did wonder how it could be categorized as "good, clean fun."
I was able -- through the wonders of modern technology -- to find not only the original version of the story but also a couple other versions along the way to the final edit that appeared in the paper.
It seemed to me that all that was missing was a good strong paragraph to explain things -- the kind of good, strong paragraph I found had ended up on the editing room floor.
The original story had contained a paragraph that said, "Arguably the cleanest funnyman among his "Blue Collar Comedy" brethren -- Jeff Foxworthy, Ron White and Larry the Cable Guy -- the Arizona native (Engvall) doesn't use f-bombs or expletives to punctuate his material. He doesn't need to. Instead, he uses something far more shocking: Real life."
So there you have it.
Good, clean fun.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Here a chick, there a chick in Key West

Well, just got back from a whirlwind vacation to Key West.
I wrote a column about a restaurant called "Blue Heaven," an eclectic eatery with a tie-dyed hippie kind of feel.
My column was about searching for a table in the outdoor seating area in 95-degree heat and 95 percent humidity. Yes, the question you ask is valid: "Who in their right mind goes to Key West in August?" Since it was my husband and me, I guess the operative words are "right mind."
Anyway, in the column I didn't mention the chickens that eat with you at Blue Heaven.
Not the chickens in the caesar salads or on the restaurant's scrumptious chicken sandwiches. No, I didn't talk about the live chickens that wander around the tables begging for scraps like very skittish little feathered dogs.
You see, there are a lot of chickens roaming around the Key West. They stomp around flower beds, mill around in front of restaurants, lead their chicks across courtyards and run across the streets.
But, by far, the largest concentration of roosters and chickens I saw there was on the outdoor patio at Blue Heaven.
And it wasn't until an e-mailer brought to my attention the fact that I wrote a column about the Blue Heaven without mentioning the winged dinner companions that I realized what an inaccurate picture I painted of the place.
For that I am truly sorry.
I think the reason I may have put those birds out of my mind is that I happened to order one of their famous caesar salads -- with chicken.
Needless to say I had a hard time eating it, looking at the grilled bird atop my greens and wondering if yesterday it had been walking around on the ground with its buddies begging for food from diners.